Line to develop apps on ICON blockchain, with ICX cryptocurrency
Line is kind of a big deal. It runs across dozens of industries, serving hundreds of millions of users.
Line is an extraordinarily popular and well known messaging app in many places, including Japan and Thailand where it's the number one most popular messaging app, as well as something of a cultural phenomenon. It became the world's number one highest grossing app for a while in 2014, and later had its own physical stores and TV show, while its parent company, South Korea's Naver, is involved in a diverse range of just about everything digital.
As of now, that range includes blockchain thanks to a new partnership with ICON (ICX).
The new partnership, a spin-off company called Unchain, will essentially be developing dapps on ICON, with an eye to expanding the ICON ecosystem, building synergies and creating a token economy to reward users for their contributions to the network.
"This joint venture takes blockchain and decentralization another step closer to being a part of our everyday lives," says the ICON announcement.
The exceptionally diverse nature of today's Line means this is kind of a big deal.
A brief history of Line
Line already has a robust user economy built around stickers. These stickers are essentially plus-sized emojis that people can send to express themselves or communicate any feelings that are best conveyed by adorable animals. However, unlike most emojis, these stickers are characters in their own right with their own backstories, such as Cony the rabbit and Brown the bear.
They took off hard, and unable to keep up with demand, Line opened the floor to user creations. Entries are lightly screened to keep out inappropriate material, but otherwise users are free to submit just about anything and either offer it for free or with a price tag. Profits from stickers with price tags are split 50-50 between Line and the creators.
In its first 7 months, the Line creators market pulled in $30 million revenue for the company. Its popularity quickly caught attention in corporate circles, and a partnership with Disney Interactive followed, sprouting a line of stickers featuring licensed characters from Star Wars, Winnie the Pooh, Marvel superheroes and other Disney property. This turned into mobile app games, which soon started accounting for the majority of Line's profits.
The next step was merchandise. Line CEO Takeshi Idezawa says the idea didn't really occur to him until he took a business trip to Taiwan and couldn't help but notice an extraordinary amount of unlicensed rip-offs, which he interpreted as unsatisfied demand.
He was right, and so up sprung a series of licensing agreements, which were eventually accompanied by a series of pop-up stores, plus three permanent locations in Korea, one in Japan and one in Taiwan.
With popularity and user base established, the next step was naturally advertising on the Line platform. Unlike other platforms, it doesn't let companies create accounts and communicate with its followers for free. If they want to send out mass messages or distribute free stickers to their followers it comes with a fee.
Then came an increasing series of spin-offs, like Line Taxi (kind of like Uber with cute mascots) and Shibuya (kind of like Uber Eats with cute mascots), followed by utilitarian apps, such as Line Maps and the Line Pay payment platform. The financial services followed, and users can now even trade stocks via the Line app. It's still expanding, and has seen year on year revenue growth.
Then in early 2018 Line announced that it had established a separate financial unit to start providing loans, and selling insurance and other financial products, and would be setting up its own cryptocurrency exchange.
"This joint venture with LINE is expected to connect significantly more users and DApps to the ICON network, bringing us that much closer to a "Hyperconnected World," says the ICON announcement.
Clearly, Line has a lot of elements that need hyperconnecting.
Markets are responding accordingly to news of this magnitude, and ICX prices have seen a hearty bounce since the announcement.
Disclosure: At the time of writing the author holds ETH, IOTA, ICX, VEN, XLM, BTC, NANO